Upheaval in art historical journalism

NAfter the editorial board of the “Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte” (ZfK) has resigned, the traditional flagship journal stands headless. The resigned publishers announce the foundation of a new magazine: “21. Inquiries into Art, History, and the Visual “. Beyond the framework of “traditional art history”, the organ wants to take on the “visual culture” and come out in spring with the first edition – in parallel to a print edition – in the electronic form of publication “Golden Open Access”. The new periodical is therefore a pilot project in competition with the ZfK, which emerged in 1932 from the “Repertory for Art Science”.

The publisher quartet also wanted to bring the quarterly ZfK on this “golden” path before it resigned. It provides for free online publication without delay and differs from the “green” version, in which the content is only published online after an embargo period.

This is how the long-established monthly magazine “Kunstchronik” from 1948 now operates, which currently has 1750 subscriptions (for ZfK, subscription numbers were not available on request). It is currently introducing the green model using the Heidelberg platform arthistoricum.net and has been testing the “Moving Wall” for a period of three years – which, according to the “Art Chronicle” editor Christine Tauber, already seems to be somewhat stretched for a review body. In addition, the old issues are gradually being put online. In principle, Tauber also considers immediate publication to be desirable: “Today’s freshmen no longer subscribe to a printed trade journal, so that in the longer term, open access should probably be the only chance to win new young readers,” she notes in her – still pending – “Reflections on the art chronicle and its journalistic future”.

Without paid expertise, no text management

As far as the (voluntary) management of communication and editing is concerned, software is now available for the editing of a scientific journal. Fortunately, this is not yet responsible for content-related focal points and qualitative standards. This also applies to the principle that is supposed to guarantee standards in terms of seriousness and commitment: the “Double Blind Peer Review” – in a magazine like the ZfK, each article is assessed anonymously by two reviewers, who in turn remain unknown to the authors. There is no doubt that sensitivity is required.

An art magazine cannot avoid a professionally trained honorary staff member, and when the third-party funding at ZfK ran out, the new sponsor in the form of the University of Bern made golden online access a condition of his donation. For publishers, this brings with it economic imponderables, which is why the entire GOA complex is a minefield in art history. Upon request, the publisher de Gruyter, under whose umbrella the ZfK appears, assures its willingness to open up to the topic of golden open access and to consider it in addition to the print version, it also wants to avoid publication fees for the authors, however – possibly – until deal with it next year. But then, as a spokeswoman points out, it is important to clarify open questions about image rights.

For 2020, the publisher has decided to assume the costs for the editorial fee (by the way, it is also necessary to order new publishers). In addition, one hopes to find a permanent “place” for the publisher’s own ZfK in the course of the year, be it a proven institution or an association in order to avoid an abrupt interregnum in the future. After all, there is enough material for the upcoming issues to appear.

The ZfK crisis also crystallized fundamental questions that Hubertus Kohl summarized in the November issue of the “Art Chronicle” under the title “What future does scientific publishing have?” The Munich art historian sees untapped resources in the “Semantic Web”: Information such as that provided by the “Allgemeine Künstlerlexikon” in great abundance could be linked in order to capture, for example, “a whole network of training relationships”, which in the analogue text “only in particles recognizable ”. With these examples, coal wants to illustrate a “decisive change in knowledge generation”. In the art historical journals, he pleads for the “overall responsibility” for them, including the exploitation rights, “to be brought back into public hands”.

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